Regional Dynasties – Sikhism

Guru Nanak

like Kabir, preached harmony between Hinduism and Islam. He was born in 1469 at the village of Talwandi (modern Nankana), near Lahore. Nanak was given formal education and employed as an assistant to his brother-in-law, who was a grain merchant. But his accounts fell into disorder, and he left service. He began to evince a keen interest in religion. He spent the rest of his life in preaching across the country. He preached the gospel of universal toleration and was against external formalities of Hinduism and against caste and religious fanaticism. His message was one of unity of God and personal love for him. He had both Hindu and Muslim disciples. He nominated Angad, one of his disciples, as his successor who gave unity and organisation to his followers. Gradually, they became known as the Sikhs.

Another version of the Bhakti movement appeared in Maharashtra in the 13th century called the Maharashtra Dharma and Jnanadeva was its founder. His work Jnaneshwari, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita earned him the title of Jnaneshwar. The second saint, Namadeva, who belonged to the tailor caste, preached the gospel of love and was opposed to idol worship and the caste system under Brahmanical domination. His compositions called cabanas are even found in the Adi Granth. Another such saint was Eknath. 

But the tallest of them perhaps was Tukaram, a devotee of Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur who was responsible for creating a background for Maratha nationalism. Shivaji, a contemporary of Tukaram, drew inspiration from the teachings of this saint and founded the Maratha kingdom.


was similar to Kabir in his conception of God and religion, besides his opposition to ritualism and the caste system. While Tukaram laid the background for the rise of Maratha nationalism under Shivaji, Ramadas, a saint who is a religious teacher also evinced a keen interest in politics and was the guru of Shivaji, influenced him to expand the Maratha kingdom and overthrow the Mughal rule. He authored the work called Dasabodha, which gave advice on all aspects of life and expanded the scope of Maharashtra Dharma.

The bhakti cult was a widespread movement and embraced the whole country. It was a movement of the people and perhaps, there had never been a more widespread and popular movement in our country than the bhakti movement. It had two main objects in view. One was to reform the Hindu religion so as to enable it to withstand the onslaught of Islamic propaganda and proselytism. Its second object was to bring about reconciliation between Hinduism and Islam and to foster friendly relations between the two communities.

The movement incidentally became responsible for the evolution and enrichment of our vernacular literature. The reformers preached to the masses through their mother tongue and, therefore, gradually enriched our modern languages, such as Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, etc. The period of the Bhakti movement, therefore, proved to be a golden period in the history of the growth of our vernacular kinds of literature.

Rise of Sikhism

The rise of a separate community which later developed into a separate religion called Sikhism was a direct outcome of the Bhakti movement. Though Nanak did not aim at establishing a separate religion, he had nominated a successor, Angad to propagate his teachings. Guru Angad became the head and organised the followers of Nanak who came to be known as Sikhs, a corrupt form of the Sanskrit word, sisya or disciple.

Guru Angad started the new script called Gurumukhi and all the hymns were written in the new script. Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth guru compiled the hymns into the Adi Granth and constructed the Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar. He was executed by Jahangir because he blessed the rebel prince Khusrau. The sixth Guru, Guru Har Gobind armed the Sikhs, the first move to make the Sikhs a martial community. When the ninth Guru, Guru Tej Bahadur was executed by Aurangzeb on charges of inspiring a rebellion, the last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh made the Sikhs a true martial community. He formed the Khalsa Brotherhood, compiled the Guru Granth Sahib and resisted the suppression of Aurangzeb till his death. His birthplace, Patna is still a famous pilgrimage site for the Sikhs.

Check out History of India notes in detail. 

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